Constantinople or Istanbul? - Mark Blaisse
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Constantinople or Istanbul?

In Greece the road signs to Istanbul are still mentioning Constantinople. This is part of a systematic teasing program, meant to irritate the Turkish neighbors and that has been going on since 1923, when the Turkish leader Ataturk decided to confiscate a considerable amount of Greek territory. Driving to the Greek-Turkish border one sees more of this irritation: 70.000 Greek soldiers are protecting the country against a Turkish ‘invasion’, an operation that is costing this bankrupt nation more than a bilion Euro a year. The whole border crossing is a proof of the political tensions: after a bridge, guarded by young Greek and Turkish conscripts facing each other with machine guns, we drive into a sea of red flags on which the white half moon seems to say that the righteous world starts here. And after this, of course, miles of military terrain awaits the traveller who thought that both countries, being members of NATO, were supposed to be friendly.
One of many examples: Greek oil, present under the sea, cannot be exploited because the Turks would not allow it. (if you drive back to Greece from Turkey, your car is sprayed with anti bacterial liquids to avoid Turkish disease to enter Greece…)
Irritation has bescome a national sport with huge economic consequences, especially for Athens. Why, one wonders, does Turkey need to show off with so much national pride, from its devotion to Mustafa Kemal (Ataturk) to the celebration of its army and its victories? In fact, rather unusual rethoric for a country that wants to look democratic and, until recently, aspired to become a member of the EU. The whole attitude perspires a kind of inferiority complex, fed by the prejudices that many Turks believe especially Western Europe holds against them. Turley, in their eyes, is the country that fights the rights of the Kurds, that commands women back into the kitchen, that, worse of all, denies the genocide against the Armenians. All myths, say the angry Turks, who then are unable to reflect on what may be partly true.
However, these are important, if not decisive, arguments against a potential EU-membership of Turkey.
just as the fact that Turkey is a very muslim country indeed, whatever Ataturk and his successors in politics have tried. Today’s government, under Prime Minister Erdogan. is the proof that state affairs and church have not been divided. A country that makes major political decisions from a religious background, having other moral and historical references than the rest of the EU, should not be accepted in its ranks, especially at a time when Europe is under great pressure. Of course, from an economical point of view Turkey should be very welcome indeed: it is wealthier than most EU-members, with more billionaires, multinational companies, inventions and talented writers than most European countries (although we are not often aware of this). Turkish entrepreneurs are famous in Asia and Africa, if not in our regions. With its 77 million citizens it consumes enough to be attractive to any brand in the world. On top of all; tghis Turtks like to travel and to invest in foreign countries. So why shouldn’t we let opportunism beat moral arguments? M

Maybe we should turn things around and wonder what reason Ankara might still have to become a EU-member? Except for recognition (snobism?) there is little to be gained. I would rather advise Turkey to stay the slightly slow and fat giant with its geo-strategic advantage, laying between Europe and Asia, playing its diplomatic role as a trustee of Washington and Teheran, Paris and Damascus (in normal times). Turkey as the architect of the region, as the wise player in the complex field created by Iran, Irak and Syria, with which it shares the Kurdish question. The world should take advantage of Turkey in this way. The country has everything to be happy, rich and influencial on its own and to be able to become an independent giant indeed. It even produces -and drinks (the Turkish Allah is mercyful)- top wines, albeit at top prices. But than again, nobody is complaining about a crisis in Turkey. Quite nice for a change.

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